CHECHNYA: SEPARATISM OR JIHAD
Chechnya: Separatism or Jihad? examines the nature of Islam in the ongoing
Chechen conflict. In early 1995 numerous foreign mujahadeen went to Chechnya
to assist the separatist movement-there have been foreigners there ever
since. Their contribution on the battlefield and their influence on the
political situation within the Chechen resistance is not clear. It has been
the subject of controversy, misinformation and political finger-pointing by
all sides in the conflict.
More disturbing, four large scale hostage-taking raids into Russia in the
past decade, Budyonnovsk (1995), Kizlar (1996), Moscow Theater (2002) and
Beslan (2004), now referred to as "spectaculars", seem to parallel the
growing radicalization of the conflict. These increasingly audacious and
violent events also serve as a chronological timeline for the story as they
illustrate an evolution and escalation of militant Chechen tactics.
At the center of the conflict is Shamil Basayev, the last remaining field
commander from the beginning of war in 1994. Has he become the face of
Chechen separatism, of Islamic radicalization in Chechnya, or both? Will
his voice dominate following the recent death of the more moderate rebel
leader, Aslan Maskhadov, at the hands of Russian commandos?
Chechnya: Separatism or Jihad? explores the larger question of whether or
not the Chechen independence movement has been hijacked by militant Islam.